Strategies to Advance Civic Space in Countries with Limited Adherence to the Rule of Law

For optimal readability, we highly recommend downloading the document PDF, which you can do below.

Document Information:

This document has been provided by the
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL).

ICNL is the leading source for information on th e legal environment for civil society and public
participation. Since 1992, ICNL has served as a resource to civil society leaders, government
officials, and the donor community in over 90 countries.

Visit ICNL’s Online Library at
for further resources and research from countries all over the world.

Disclaimers Content. The information provided herein is for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be
construed to constitute legal advice. The information contai ned herein may not be applicable in all situations and may not, after the date of
its presentation, even reflect the most current authority. Noth ing contained herein should be relied or acted upon without the benefit of legal
advice based upon the particular facts and circumstances pres ented, and nothing herein should be construed otherwise.
Translations. Translations by ICNL of any materials into other languages are intended solely as a convenience. Translation accuracy is not
guaranteed nor implied. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of a translation, please refer to the original language official version of
the document. Any discrepancies or differences created in the tr anslation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or
enforcement purposes.
Warranty and Limitation of Liability. Although ICNL uses reasonable efforts to include ac curate and up-to-date information herein, ICNL
makes no warranties or representations of any kind as to its a ccuracy, currency or completeness. You agree that access to and u se of this
document and the content thereof is at your own risk. ICNL discl aims all warranties of any kind, express or implied. Neither ICNL nor any
party involved in creating, producing or delivering this document shall be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of access to, use of
or inability to use this document, or any e rrors or omissions in the content thereof.

Strategies to Advance Civic Space in Countries with Limited Adherence to the Rule of Law:

Report on the Argent ine Dialogue: 2001-2005

The ICNL-Cordaid Civil Liberties Prize
Honorable Mention

Angela Calvo
Regional Director of Advocacy and Citizen Committee
for Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean

This manuscript was submitted for consideration for the ICNL-Cordaid Civil Liberties Prize in
January 2008. More information regarding the prize and winners can be found at on/crossregional/prize/index.htm.




The Argentine Dialogue was a process which, by means of the widespread
participation of Argentine soci ety, has intended to contribute to the reconstruction of the
basis of social cohabitation in the Argentine Republic. It was called by the Argentine
Government, with the participation of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, and the
technical support of the United Nations Development Programme .

The objectives of this dialogue were: the involvement of political, corporate, labour and
social forces to undergo a process of national dialogue, fi nd general solutions for the
mid and long term and work on the definition of a national sustainable project.

In the development of the Argentine Dialogu e we can identify two stages. The first one
included the following stages: “Dialogue with Leaders” of the different sectors of
society; Section Boards, aimed at reaching a series of basic agreements to face the
emergency and develop general consents on public policies; and the devise and
commitment summarized in the document of consent titled, “ Basis for Reforms”
intended to implement fundamental changes in the transition period.

This process achieved positive results: to recover dialogue as a consensus generating
instrument, to contribute to social peace-maki ng in light of the crisis; to recover the
essential values for life in society; to fo ster actions to meet the needs of social
emergency and to reform social policies and identify the basic consents for the
transition period.

In the second stage (2003-2005) various social sectors called for the continuation of the
process. Accordingly, an Extended Board of the Argentine Dialogue, with the
participation of a large number of repres entatives of non government and religious
organizations, and corporate and workers entities. Religious communities are the
largest and best-organized civi l institutions, claiming the allegiance across race, class,
and national divides. These communities ha ve particular cultural understandings,
infrastructures, and resources to get help where it is needed most. This stage of the
Argentine Dialogue featured a greater involvement of civil society .

The Argentine Dialogue offered the institutional space, ac ted as a catalyst, which should
be accompanied by the leading participati on and new attitudes and actions by the
players of all areas, as from the number of social and communal institutions. However,
the contributions and innovations that this experience has provided to the transition
process in favor of the Argentine society r econstruction seem to be highly significant.

When it comes to a global evaluation, the Dialogue contributions should not be
forgotten as regards the recovery of national dialogue and the contributions to the
interests of social pacificati on and restoration of essential values for the coexistence and
reconstruction of the common good.

When revising the process developed by the Argentine Dialogue, it may be recognized
that the stages of the exchanges made with th e players such as deliberations of sectorial
coordination tables have been valuable experiences, learning exercises that have
boosted and validated the way for the dialogue as a crucial methodology to solve
conflicts and reach main consensus to deve lop State policies in a democratic society.

This consideration reinforces the conviction that even though the results achieved by the
Argentine Dialogue up to now are significant, there are still pending some important
tasks and phases to develop th e dialogue among Argentine people , and it should finally
be incorporated effectively to the institut ional and social practice of the democratic
process in our country.
Thus, the Argentine Dialogue is a solid base to boost th e efforts even more in
order to widen and consolidate the consensus, to implement the reforms demanded
by society, to advance in the jo int construction of the State policies, to project a country
strategic vision for Argentina.

Angela Cristina Calvo

Buenos Aires, 16/01/2008

The ICNL-Cordaid Civil Liberties Prize



1.1 A view to the national dialogue processes in Latin America

Almost all countries in Latin America
share the opinion that in the past two years the
development process has basically been guided
by economic policies which essentially followed
the tenets of “Washingt on Consensus” (fiscal
discipline, free trade, privatization, openness to
foreign direct investment, among others) and has
not been translated into continuous improvement
in the quality of life for most of the people. In
view of this situation, the aim was to implement
the economics policy with deeper institutional
and judicial reforms, more extensive rights to the
security given to the pr ivate investment, direct
interventions to reduce poverty and the creation
of mechanisms to provide a higher degree of legal
and civil security. (Zovatto, 2002)

Characteristics of a national dialogue process

ƒ Contributes to the consolidation of
ƒ Joins the diverse national players round
common goals.
ƒ Promotes the evaluation of the pace of
democratic development.
ƒ Enables the identification of main areas for
the mediation and articulation of adequate
cooperation programs.
ƒ Enables the impact ev aluation on external

It also helps to the following:
ƒ Lead the debate on democratization.

ƒ Identify possible deficiencies of the political
ƒ Shape a national consensus about
development priorities.

ƒ Make agreement on the actions to be taken. ent on the actions to be taken.

Likewise, there is the spread conviction
that solutions based on participation and
consensus, and having a broad foundation for
civil legitimacy contribute to “armor” the highly
important reform process against pollution of
partisan politics. In th is way, the reforms would
turn into state policies a nd not just policies of the
government of the moment, thus increasing its
viability and durability in the long term.

But there is agreement that the open, partic ipative, inclusive and plural nature of
these processes allow increasing the sense of civil property of reforms, consolidating
participation while giving presence and voice in issues that have been traditionally
reserved only for the political leadership or for influential minority groups involved.
In other words, what they intend is to create confidence, commitment, certainty,
political and economic stability and legal se curity with the objective to encourage the
private sector (national and international) to invest in order to produce a sustained
economic growth without which nothing is possible.

Other reason that puts the dialogue into practice, as was stat ed in the recent
Monterrey Agreement lies in the fact that those countries having a long-term vision –
which will serve as a guide for a developm ent strategy– will have better opportunities to
obtain financial support by international bodies.

1.2 Different origins and causes of the national dialogue processes


A dialogue process may arise from
different reasons. Among others, it can start
with the objective to design a shared and
long-term country vision, or with the
objective to overcome a blockade, or with
the aim of achieving an agreement that
allows beginning the reconstruction of a
society divided by an armed conflict.

Origins and causes of the national dialogue processes

1. Crisis of the democratic institutionalism legitimacy.
2. Representation Crisis..
3. Governance Crisis
4. To respond society’s blockade.
5. To plan a shared country vision in the long term to
be used as a frame of reference for the development
6. To create extensive consensus regarding sector
public policies.
7. To build confidence in deeply divided and/or
polarized societies
8. To institutionalize civil society participation.
9. To consolidate piece in post-conflict situations.

The national dialogue may also
originate from situations of deep crisis or
changes requiring rapprochement and
understanding among parties, or due to
increasing demands from society, either
looking for solutions or options for
participation. (Zovatto,2002)
As we see, the dialogue originates
from many different reasons. In some cases,
the dialogue is appealed due to the
governance crisis faced by the country. This
seems to be the case of the dialogues in
Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Pe ru and the Argentine, among others.

In fact, according to Carlos Doré Cabr al, who was in charge of conducting a
National Dialogue in Dominican Republic during the President Leonel Fernandez
administration, the main factor that hastened the dialogue was the socio-political reality
which represents a considerable threat to th e democratic governance that was originated
and then acquired strength before the start of such soci al participation process and
ended with the general strike on November 11-12, 1997; a week before the decree of
November 19 where it was announced to th e country the creation of an Organizing
Committee for the National Dialogue
In Costa Rica, the crisis of civil legitimacy of the political system, together with
a deep transformation in the development styl e unable to keep ensuring social mobility
and sustained improvement of lifestyles and qu ality of life, led to a consensus process
call in 1998. This was thought as a means to face the bottleneck situations of national
development, while trying to develop demo cracy coexistence, especially to achieve
advances regarding levels of social dialogue and civil pa rticipation in the decision-
making processes.
In other words, the national consensu s call was to respond to the political
situation of Costa Rica at that moment. The February 1998 election results clearly
showed social disillusion and political apathy. On the other hand, the urgency of
1 DORE CABRAL, Carlos Op. Cit. “The Dialogue model taken into account was the situation in
Bolivia.” However, in case of Dominican Republic, the urgent character of the National Dialogue
Consensus, due to difficult situations that the country was facing politically, established a considerable
level of improvisation. Because of that, the dialogue faced an atmosphere of distrust from some players
(who did not believe in the good faith of the Government and thought that it was its strategy to save time)
as well as the non-participation of the main opposition party, democratic revolutionary party (Partido
Revolucionario Democrático-PRD) , (in administration at present) and unions.”

economic reforms and policies for the national development model suggested the
pressing need of making detail ed social agreements about what course had to be taken
for the country. On top of this, there was also the diversity of inte rests and social groups
that had appeared in Costa Rica in the past years. All these factors together made more
difficult the political negotiation and nationa l consensus formation that would lay the
foundations of a long-lasting development
In Mexico, the situation of a “divided government” that resulted from July 2000
elections led President Fox to propose the signing of Political Agreement for the
National Development that came true on October 7, 2001, with the objective of
harmonizing the change with political stability, plurality, government efficiency,
economic certainty and national development
In Peru, a similar situation led President Alejandro Toledo to appeal for
Dialogue in order to make the National Agr eement possible. Meanwhile, in Argentina,
it was the serious political, econom ic and social situation (which swept 5 presidents in
15 days between the end of December 2001 a nd the beginning of January 2002) that led
President Duhalde to ask the Catholic Church and UNDP [United Nations Development
Programme] for help regarding the appeal, and set in motion of a National Dialogue.
But in other countries, the appeal for na tional dialogue had different reasons. So,
in Bolivia, for example, in 1997 National Dialogue (country global vision) and 2000
Dialogue about fighting poverty (provide HIPCII resources and give supplies for
Bolivian strategy to reduce poverty [Estrategia Boliviana para Reducir la Pobreza-
EBRP] , the main reasons for the dialogue were the following: (i) improve representative
democracy with elements of participative democracy; (ii) overcome “partyarch”; (iii)
make agreements between the political syst em and society; (iv) create public spheres
between the State and society in order to organize proposals that turned into public
policies; (v) make agreements that became St ate policies and (vi) create an active and
co-responsible people

1.3 Organizations in Charge of National Dialogues

As we have seen in the issues covere d up to now regarding the diverse Latin
American experiences about national dialogu es, there is no common method or pattern
or ideal type to organize such exercises. Subsequently, the decision of the responsible
agency or body about the dialogue plan and management does not respond to a
preconceived idea, but, on the contrary, each experience, for reasons already shown, has
been adapted to the peculiarities of each society in which the dialogue would be

2 CONARE/PNUD. Op.Cit. 3 DIEZ DE SOLLANO, Jorge; SUZAN, Eric and de RAMES, Alain (2002). Op.Cit. 4 TORANZO, Carlos (2002). 1997-2000 Dialogues. Bolivia. Report elaborated for the workshop “ El
Papel de los Diálogos en la Política Social. Implicaciones para la Estrategia de Desarrollo Social del
BID”. Santiago, Chile. March 30 and 31, 2002


However, it was observed that in almost all cases, the planning of the long-term
vision and strategy has come from the Presid ency of the Argentine Nation or some of
the Ministries. It is worth mentioning, howev er, that the Secretaries of Treasury or
Finance have been reluctant to participate in these processes, so it is important to make
efforts to achieve a greater degree of commitment and participation from these officers.
After these preliminary considerations , we can review different cases of
Dialogue which explain diverse options about the institution, body or agency in charge
of carrying out each experience.

So, in Dominican Republic, the Orga nizing Committee for the National
Dialogue, formed by 11 citizens, was create d by Executive Decree. In this committee
participated the President of the Argentine Nation, two government officers and eight
personalities from universities, churches, non-governmental organizations, the business
sector and the media, among others; all of them were called in an unofficial capacity.
Despite its plural character, the Committee was not exempt from criticism mainly on its
origin through Executive decree.

In a similar way, in Salvador, the National Development Committee was
established in 1997 by the President’s appeal with the express order of postponing the
initial discussion agenda and organizing the consultation process, which would promote
views on the national future in the me dium and long term. This committee was
composed of six people in an unofficial capacity representing different ideological
positions. It is worth mentioning that the National Development Committee was
established as an autonomous and independe nt authority which was civil, plural and

In Peru, the initiative was created in the Executive, and the political
responsibility of leading the dialogue, as for the government , rests with the presidency
of the Ministries Council. Likewise, the gove rnment asked a civil society organization,
Transparencias, to act as a techni cal assistant in the dialogue process in order to seal the
National Agreement. The Table was composed by representatives from the government,
political parties represented in parliament , the business sector, the syndical sector,
regional fronts and churches. This case stood out due to the formation of a Consultant
Council composed of five inte rnational and three national personalities to support the

In Bolivia, the appeal finds its roots in a group of intellectuals with known
independence and openness. This initiative is then made viable with the most
government democratic sectors. So, as regards both dialogues (1997 and 2000) the
appeal was made by the President of the Arge ntine Nation who entrusted this job to the
Vice President. The Vice President, togeth er with the group of intellectuals that
suggested the idea, organized round the proces s Technical Secretary, were in charge of
putting together the agenda and leading the dialogue. Alth ough this is an autonomous
agency, it worked amicably with the Executi ve and it received the financial support of
the common fund set up by the interna tional cooperation. Precisely by 2000, the
initiative came at the same time as the in ternational bodies requisites for the cooperative
allocation resources and coincided with them.
In Costa Rica, the appeal was issued by the President of the Argentine Nation. It
is interesting to mention that the national dialogue was part of the President’s campaign

promises. The exercise started with an Agreement Committee made up by six members
who were in charge of the comprehensive exercise. To this end, the Committee started
analyzing a number of intern ational experiences and held around 60 advisory meetings
with the different Costa Rican civil society se ctors, as well as similar meetings with
political parties. In additi on to them, a continuous communi cation and advisory channel
was opened, with state universities and the Catholic Church.

The Costa Rica experience had a Coordinating Table, led by the Presidency
Minister which was in charge of moderating the discussion and set the deadlines for the
resolution of issues. The Executive Secretary was also established. Its main role was to
support the Coordinating Table and gather in formation, systematize inputs and elaborate
process reports. Apart from these two agencies, they also set up the National Forum for
the Agreement, which was a space for negot iation between the different political and
social forces, the Agreement Verification Committee, and the Mediators Board, in
charge of settling those aspects in whic h the National Forum might not reach an

In Mexico, the Political Agreement for th e National Development was the result
of the recent political development and th e acknowledgement of Federal Government
and political parties that in the face of a significant frag mentation in both legislative
chambers it was inevitable to make basic agr eements to promote the development of an
agenda and the adherence to it that will faci litate the country governance. On the basis
of these considerations, such political agreement was signed between the Federal
Government and the political parties with legislative representation on October 7, 2001.
Unlike other cases, in Mexico there was an agreement negotiated between the Secretary
of the Interior and representatives of the political parties with representation in
Congress, and then invited unions an d businessmen to adhere to it.


2.1 Presentation

The Argentine Dialogue is a process that, by means of the extensive
participation of society, has aimed to cont ribute to the reconstruction of the social
cohabitation in view of the deep political, co nstitutional, economic and social crisis that
Argentina is faci ng. (Gerardo Noto,2004)

Since 2001, the Resident Representa tive of the UNDP, Carmelo Angulo
Barturen, promoted a number of actions with the objective of setting up the dialogue
and the agreement as tools to resolve conf licts and build consensus that would allow
developing public policies aimed at overcoming the crisis. These efforts were coherent
with the repeated Catholic Church ap peals for dialogue among Argentine people.
With the arrival of a new transition government, the then President of the
Country Dr. Eduardo Duhalde made a public a ppeal for national dialogue, in response
to the “urgent call made by Argentine Episcopal Conference [Conferencia Episcopal
Argentina] to the political leadership for respons ibility, with the contribution and help
5 See, El diálogo que la Patria necesita , 130ª Reunión de la Comisión Permanente de la Conferencia
Episcopal Argentina , December 3, 2001


of the UNDP” to “develop a national dialogue
process capable of correcting the course
that led the country to this distressing present situation.” 6
The first stage of this process was deve loped from January 2000 to the issuing of
the document “Bases para las reformas,” which summarizes the consensus reached as a
result of that period. A new period started in October 2002.

On January 14, 2002, the National Gove rnment called for the Argentine
Dialogue with the participation of the Argentine Episcopal Conference and the
collaboration of 3 lay people: Cristina Ca lvo, Juan Llach and Humberto Terrizano, and
provided the spiritual space for the Catholic Church, and the technical support of the
PNUD, as detailed further.

The objectives set by the National Govern ment to this forum on political and
social agreement were as follows:

“Participation of political, business, work and social forces to face the collapse
that puts us in an extreme situation of anarchy and fratricide violence.”
Find “medium- and long-term solutions.”
And “work in the definition of a sustained national project.”

The priorities for this project were as follows: “emergency solutions,” and a
“considerable institutional reform that includes from the essential reduction of political
spending to the necessary reshaping of the State.”

From the appeal made by the President of the Nation, th e National Dialogue
Table was organized in order to pr omote this process. This Table was made up by three
representatives of each of such institutions.

In view of the serious crisis of the country, in which so me of the most crucial
moments were experienced at the end of D ecember 2001 and during the first months of
2002, and also in the face of the society’s deep distrust and skepticism regarding
institutions and all kind of political leaders, the National Table designed a methodology
to contribute to the dialogue development, having as immediate goals the following

• Overcome skepticism and mistrust regarding the dialogue from many social
• Promote a broad social participation.
• Build a legitimate sphere of dialogue for society.
• Contribute to the building of the consensus pursued.

It is important to mention that the ins titutional frame demanded by society for the
process to move forward was given by the essential presence and participation of the
Catholic Church and the UNDP, since these inst itutions are recognized by being neutral,
objective and experienced.

6 Speech of Dr. Eduardo Duhalde before the Legislativ e Committee when he took office as President of
Argentine Nation.

7 Message to the Nation of the President Eduardo Duhalde from the Church Santa Catalina de Siena
Buenos Aires Argentina January 14 2002.

2.2 First Stage

Initially, a set of bilateral meetings we re made with players from different
sectors of society, the Dialogue with Players
8 [Dialogo con Actores], with the
objective of establishing a dial ogue and put it into practice, overcoming uncertainty and
mistrust, and also identifying the main issues and necessary agreements. In these
dialogues participated Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), business institutions,
unions, micro and small businesses, emerging groups, professional institutions, national
and provincial political part ies, religious groups, provinc ial and municipal governments
and members of the National Legislative Po wer. When this stage was over, the
document “Bases para el Diálogo Argentino” was written.

In the second stage, there were agreements in which Sectorial Tables were
implemented to reach a set of essential ag reements in order to meet the priorities
resulting from the emergency situation and de velop consensus about public policies to
be implemented in the medium and long term.
The following tables were organized: soci al-labor-productive, health, education,
judicial and political reform. Then, a bui lding and housing table was appealed. The
sectorial tables kept working in the progress of the actions set. The achievements in the
Health Table, Judicial, Housing a nd Building Reform were highlighted.
As a result of the first stage, the document “Construir la Transición” was
written. This document summarizes the agreem ents signed in the sectorial tables and
was given to the President of the Nation on February 28, 2002.
In order to continue the efforts re garding the national dialogue, the Table
promoted new experiences, Provinces Dialog ues –which were pilot experiences in
Catamarca, Corrientes and La Pampa Provinces – and in Buenos Aires City Dialogue for
the Homeless.
In order to move forward in the building of essential consensus to implement
basic changes during the transition period, the Dialogue Table wrote the document
Bases para las Reformas: Principales Consensos that summarized the core of
consensus which resulted in the Argentine Dialogue . This document was made public to
the people on July 11, 2002, obtaining peop le, political leaders and institutions

The publishing of this document set the conclusion of the first stage of the
Argentine Dialogue, which showed a number of satisfactory results which included the
• The restoration of the dialogue as a means to achieve agreements.
• The contribution to the social pacification in view of the crisis and the risk of social
anomie and dissolution.
• Efforts to restore essential values for soci al life: The ethical sense of the “Public”
and the commitment with the common good.
8 In the Dialogue with Players participated about 500 political leaders in representation of around 100
institutions. There were 150 hours of deliberations registered, analyzed and filed by the UNDP.
9 Argentine Dialogue, Bases para el Diálogo Argentino, Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 30, 2002. 10 In this stage from the Sectorial Tables participated more than 750 representatives of 300 institutions of
all the country.


Actions to deal with the social emergenc y situation and reform the social policy.
Heads of Household Program [Programa Jefas y Jefes de Hogar] and health
policies generic prescription medicine and Remedy Program [Programa Remediar].
• Make progress regarding the identification of the essential consensus for the
transition: Bases para las Reformas .
As regards the achievements realized , it is worth mentioning the transparent
role played by the Argentine Dialogue in orde r to develop new tools associated to social
policies in view of the social demands due to the emergency situation. On the one hand,
the Dialogue Table promoted the acknowledgement of the Family Right to Social
11 which was received legally by the National Executive Power by decree 56
of April. 3, 2002 with the launching of Unemployed Household Program. 12 This
decision involved making progress in the so cial program structural reforms, adding
stages of social participation and control in order to contribute to a clear process. The
UNDP has supported, at the beginning of the process, the consolida tion of the National
Council of Administrati on, Execution and Control
13 and its Executive Secretary.
Also, it is important to mention th e consensus achieved in the Argentine
Dialogue Health Sectorial Table, which cha nneled the society support into a policy on
prescribing medicine by generic name and Remedy Program . And now there is the
implementation of the Child and Mother Health Insurance whose objective is to
guarantee health service for pregnant wo men and children under five years old.

On the other hand, there are still some matters pending for a new dialogue stage:
The need to make progress in the political and institutional reform, the renewal and
change of attitude by the leadership sector s, the development of state policies with
social consensus in all the sectors associated to public policies.
When reviewing this first stage of the Argentine Dialogue it seems important to
be able to see the achievements, –implement a dialogue stage in view of the seriousness
of the crisis– its immediate results –the c onsensus achieved– and the final objectives of
the process: to effectively get transformations done. As re gards the first two aspects,
considerable progress has been made, while in the objectives set later there is still a long
way to go; that is to say, the realization of the agreements made to implement reforms
effectively. One of the most important causes of this failure was the debilitation of the
transition government established on January 1, 2002, which led to an early appeal for
elections in March 2003, and al so the fact that the transition government objectives, as a
transformation process, could not be achieved.

When this stage ended, a number of soci al players demanded to continue with
the job of the Sectorial Tables¸ the consolidation of the discussion about the important
agreements and the need of getting closer to the basic social fabric supporting and
promoting the actual participation boost. It is worth mentioning the particular posture of
11 Argentine Dialogue, Document Derecho Familiar de Inclusión Social , Buenos Aires, Argentina, March
18, 2002.
12 The unemployed Heads of Household Program is being revised and modified, but still continues to be
the biggest social program in the country, reaching more than two million people, with a monthly budget
of around 300 million pesos.
13 The National Administration, Execution and Control Council was created by 565/02 Decree, and is
composed of 15 members, 12 of which represent the main organizations of businessmen, workers (and
unemployed), denominational institutions and NGOs, leav ing three positions to national ministries with
jurisdiction in the Program.

the Argentine Episcopal Conference, which within the frame of the Extraordinary
Meeting evaluated positively the experience of the Argentine Dialogue. It emphasized
the consensus achieved in the document Bases para las Reformas “which can promote
the restoration of the democratic institutions in our country,” and said that “now the
dialogue begins a new and diffe rent phase,” in which “all citizens” should participate
“in the restoration of our social life” and co mmitted themselves to “help and extend this
dialogue to every corn er of the country.”

2.3 Second Stage

On October 18, 2002, the first plenary session of the Argentine Dialogue
Extended Table was held. Here a broad representation of civil society participated:
from different creed and expressions of faith (Catholic, Evangelicals, Jews and
Moslem), NGOs, business and worker institutio ns. In this meeting a number of strategic
lines were adopted to be followed in the second stage of the dialogue in the four stated
areas. Communication and the Media, Dialog ue with All the People, Impact on the
Governance Situation and Agenda. The Operative Group of the Extended Table was
also created. It was made up by 10 member s of different NGOs and denominational
participants, under the coordination of Cristina Calvo (Caritas Argentina), in charge of
planning and implementing the necessary actions to meet the objectives of the second

In the face of the day before the anniversar y crisis and in view of the evidence of
a potential violence and confrontation in th e streets, the Argentine Dialogue appealed
citizens for participation in an Appeal for peace and Dialogue on December 18, 2002 ,
as a symbol of unity and pacification. This ceremony was supported by citizens and a
number of society’s sectors, and showed that the Argentine Dialogue’s mission
statement is the maintenance of social peace.

Regarding the Impact on the Situation , the priority was that the Argentine
Dialogue should respond to the public opinion in two principal matters : hunger and the
coming presidential elections. So, it was deci ded that the table should be divided in two
subgroups to plan strategies to be discussed in each question.
The Hunger Table found it necessary to discuss the following matters: a)
increase home incomes through a Universa l Family Allowance that guarantees the
access to the basic food basket gradable depending on the number of children under 18
years old, by elderly person over 65 without social insurance and pregnant women; b)
guarantee a comprehensive assistance in th e areas of health, nutrition and population
development together with the Mother and Child Insurance and other health programs;
c) coordinate the activities of civil organizations with the objective of promoting and
consolidating the families (health education, child bearing, better food options, etc.)
with the existing food and social programs; d) consolidate the provincial, municipal and
neighboring Consultant Councils not just in relation to Social Control of the programs
but to its impact on local public policies.

14 Abstracts from the document La Nación que queremos from the Argentine Episcopal Conference,
which was given at the end of the Extraordinary Pl enary Committee, Pilar, Buenos Aires, Argentina,
September 28, 2002.

Regarding the electoral process that started in 2003, a participation and
awareness campaign was developed through th e media, in which the importance of
voting in democracy was emphasized, as well as the role that the officials in charge of
the polling station would play a role in the election to achieve a transparent electoral
process, For that matter a work shop was carried out about the Impact of the Electoral
Process, where two experts from Inte rnational IDEA assisted.
On the other hand, members of the Argentine Dialogue held meetings with the
officials of different presid ential candidates with the ob jective of offering them a
governance agenda agreed by the polling stations. These reunions ended with work
meetings with the candidates during March-Ap ril in San Juan Bautista town, Buenos
Aires Province. The candidates that participated in these meetings were as follows:
Leopoldo Moreau, Ricardo Lopez Murphy, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa and Elisa Carrió (the
candidates Carlos Menem and Néstor Ki rchner did not wish to participate).

2.4 Third stage

As a result of an Organizational Learning Workshop in June 2003, whose
objective was to study the trial carried out by this group of institutions (professional and
civil society organizations) the third stage started. In this Stage, the Argentine Dialogue
is characterized by the major participation of the civil society with the objective of
promoting the efforts to improve and conso lidate the consensus, and, in view of the
crisis persistence, contributing to restore the conditions necessary to overcome people
mistrust of political leaders, and the risk of social disintegration and marginalization.
The preservation and enhancement of the Argentine Dialogue is a strategic decision that
responds to the intent ion of channeling the demands of society, restore the common
good and promote the necessary actions to encourage the consolidation of the
institutional transformations stated in th e first dialogue stage and contribute to the
transformation of the country demanded by the people, in a coordinated way.

The fourth main denominational institutions (Catholics, Jews, Moslems and
Evangelicals) and more than 250 civil so ciety organizations are committed to the
Argentine Dialogue. It should be taken into account that the Social Sector Forum
gathers 220 institutions of a ll the country, which are as follows: Caritas Argentina, Lay
Office of the Argentine Episcopal Conference [Departamento de Laicos de la
Conferencia Episcopal Argentina] , Argentine Jewish Community Association
[Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina AMIA] , Argentine B´nai Brit Institution, Jewish
Foundation [Fundación Judaica – DAIA] , Bethel Community, Islam Difusión House
[Casa de difusión del Islam] , Nacional Christian and Eva ngelical Council, Argentine
Federation of Evangelical Churches, Penteco stal Evangelical Federation Confederation
[Federación Confederación Evangélica Pentecostal] , Christian Alliance Federation of
Evangelical Churches [Federación Alianza Cristiana de Iglesias Evangélicas],
Christian Youth Association. Argentine Ba ptist Evangelical Convention, Christian
Business Leader Association – CB LA, Lázaro Group, Solidarity Network [Red
Solidaria] , CONCIENCIA Association, Social Sector Forum, Civil Power [Poder
Ciudadano] , Intercultural Dialogue Association, El Otro Foundation, AREA, Argentine
Engineer Center [Centro Argentino de Ingenieros – CAI] , Compromiso Ciudadano
Foundation, Criterio Magazine, Pedro Poveda Institute, Transparency Social Forum,
Civil Open Town Council [Cabildo Abierto Ciudadano] , Implementation Center of
Public Policies for Equity and Development – [Centro de Implementación de Políticas
Pública para la Equidad y el Crecimiento – CIPPEC] , Education and Participation
Center, Argentine Workers Center, Argen tine Scouts, Public Prosecutors Without

Borders [Fiscales sin Fronteras] , Argentine Agrarian Federation, Small and Medium-
sized Enterprise Association [Asociación de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa – APYME] ,
Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Argentine Jewish-Christian Brotherhood, Argentine
Catholic Movement [Acción Católica Argentina] , Fénix Group, Cambio Democrático
Foundation, Tomás Moro Group, Argentine Islamic Institution [Organización Islámica
Argentina] , Citizens for the Change, Argentine Native Association – [Asociación
Indígena de la República Argentina – AIRA] , Fundación Grupo Innova Foundation,
International Rotary 1890 District, Social and Institutional Development and Analysis
Group [Grupo de Análisis y Desarrollo Institucional y Social – GADIS] . This staged
ended at the end of 2005.

2.5 Evaluation and impact of the Argentine Dialogue in the Transition Process.

a) Main achievements

The Argentine Dialogue has been an unheard-of process of agreement and
negotiation, which was characterized by the coordinated participation of the National
Government, the Argentine Catholic Church and the United Nations. The dialogue has
been realized in the middle of a serious political, institutional and socioeconomic crisis
that has affected significantly the social or der and pacification and the basic agreements
for the social coexistence. As a result of the dialogue, a highly participative process was
created. This proce ss found a favorable response in all the institutions and the
population; and their proposals were well r eceived by the National Government and
Argentine Society. (Noto, 2004)
In analyzing the consequences and impact of this process, it is worth mentioning the
main achievements, which are as follows:
1. Restoration of dialogue among Argentine people.
2. Contributions to social pacification.
3. Efforts to recover essential values for living in a society. Confidence, Credibility,
Solidarity, National Identity.
4. Actions to deal with the social emergency situation and reform the social policy.
5. Promote the Political Reform.
6. Consensus for Reforms.

1. Restoration of dialogue among Argentine pe ople. Building a sphere for legitimate
The Argentine Dialogue was set up in a sphere where all political, economic, social,
cultural and religious sectors could express their visions, criticism and proposals, as
well as exchanging their points of view a nd perspectives with other sectors and
Just the fact of creating a negotiation foru m to analyze and suggest solutions as a
group is a highly positive achievement. What is more, the dialogue’s value and impact


are greater if we consider that
it was carried out during one of the deepest crisis that our
country has ever been through, and compare its results with previous experiences.
What factors can explain that the dialogue has been possible and the fact that
important achievements were reached, especially in the institutional and social spheres?
Taking into account all the elements that may explain this process, it is essential to
mention two aspects: First of all, the app ealing institutions contributed significantly,
each in their particular role s, to the building of the proper space to carry out the
dialogue. The government promoted the appeal and played an active role in the process
management. It seems important to mention the personal interest and commitment of
the President of the Nation as a key factor wh en evaluating the results of the process.

The Catholic Church provided its moral pr estige, and experience, as well as its
special concern about those in need. Meanwhile, the UNDP provided the organizational
and technical support based on their broad experience in negotiation processes and
activities associated to human developm ent. Particularly, the presence of both
institutions and the performance of its repr esentatives in the Dialogue Table guaranteed
objectivity, clear rules, neutra lity and commitment to the process which established a
legitimate frame leading to the particip ation of all sectors.

On the other hand, it should be emphasized th at all institutions appealed, except a
few, joined the effort to set up a national dialogue. From diverse political, business,
union sectors, civil society institutions, and even “emerging” groups for which this has
been the first experience of this kind. Why such diverse sectors committed to the
dialogue? There are many factors; but the seriousness of the crisis and the generalized
feeling that Argentine society was head ing for the social dissolution, the daily
demonstrations of anarchy a nd social anomie, were decisi ve factors to promote the
participation in the process. This sphere was seen as a means that could help
significantly end that dissocia ted process, to become the “last resort” in the face of the
social dissolution and reach consensus to st art to overcome the crisis.

2. Contributions to Social Pacification
The Argentine Dialogue is recognized as a factor that has contributed to the
recovery of social pacification in view of the situation of anomie, social dissolution,
and loss of order that took place since the end of December 2001. It was a stage of
important participation, giving rise to new emergent groups, and turning into a sphere
where the demands of different sectors were channeled as a result of the emergency.
Under this situation, the Argentine Dialogue depicted a new message, a way of
transformation, through sincer e dialogue, and the search for alternatives through
consensus. It promoted commitment with essential values and common good, the
upgrading of the corporative defense of s ectorial and individual interests by global
concerns, the State policy desi gns, the institutional reform of policy, justice and the
State. Argentine Dialogue inspired confidence in society as a useful tool for overcoming
the crisis, as confirmed by the informa tion stated among population and the leaders.

15 Gallup, Mora y Araujo and SEL (Sociedad de Estudios Laborales) surveys showed that 49% of
population, 42% of leaders and 32% of businessmen were confident that the Argentine Dialogue would
contribute to the resurgence of the countr y (measurement taken in February 2002).


However, this hope in the Ar
gentine Dialogue does not seem to have contributed to
the overcoming of the great feeling of rejec tion by society of the political, business and
syndical leaders, as the lack of confidence and a feeling of disappointment due to the
breach of agreements, specially banking an d monetary agreements. Within this
generalized negative percepti on framework, the Argentine Dialogue was unable, despite
its efforts, to delve into public opinion en masse, just as shown by the limited
knowledge of the population about the initiative, although political leaders were very
well informed about it.

As days and weeks passed by since th e establishment of the new transition
government on January 1, 2002, they made progress in social pacification in view of the
situation experienced in the first months of the year. Ho wever, it should not be forgotten
that, as a result of the long re cession and the dramatic fall of the financial activity that
was intensified since the end of 2001, the unemployment, poverty and destitution
situations have deteriorated even more . The social emergency plans boosted by the
Argentine Dialogue and the Government (food, sanitary, unemployment subsidies for
Heads of Household) contribute to the shor t term mitigation of the situation –in the
middle term the crisis may only be overcom e from the economic reactivation and the
recovery of employment leve ls. However, owing to the importance and the seriousness
of the crisis, it should be noticed that today there are more than fifteen million of poor
people, of which more than six million are un able to meet their basic food needs; the
situation is highly unstable, particularly in the main built-up urban areas of the country.

3. Efforts to recover essential values for living in a societ y: Confidence, Credibility,
Solidarity, National Identity
One of the main concerns related to the or ganizing institutions and the vast majority
of the players in the dialogue process was that, given the crisis depth and the social
fabric deterioration, the reconstr uction of society was essential starting from restoring
the ethical sense of the “Public” a nd the commitment to the common good, through
a great change in culture, valu es and paradigms that cover all institutions, either State-
owned ones or belonging to the civil society, citizens and its political leaders.

The current serious crisis, characterized as “terminal” and of essentially moral
nature has led citizens to lose confidence in institutions and their political leaders. The
Argentine Dialogue provided a sphere where a great consensus was consolidated over
the need of recreating a number of essential values for living in society. Confidence,
Credibility, Solidarity, National Identity.

Confidence in the society plane e xpressed in the predictability and clarity of the
rules of the game. In this plane, the legal security and the respect for private property
was recognized as essential. Credibility, closely associated with confidence, refers to
the integrity and transparency of actions, th e fulfillment of promises made. It implies
the commitment not to abandon the fight against corruption. Solidarity refers to
distributive justice as a new element of the social bond among Argentine people that
16 Ibid. Only 1 out of 10 interviewed at national level and 1 out of 5 in the City of Buenos Aires
recognized that they have real knowledge of the Argentine Dialog ue. On the contrary, among political
leaders, 3 out of 4 interviewed showed a good level of knowledge.


should lead to share fairly the austerity in view of the crisis.
National Identity, as
recovery of the historical roots and a common project of society towards the future. 17

The achievements in this matter are much more difficult to evaluate, particularly in
the short term. However, the aim of Argentin e Dialogue was the materialization of these
values in the boosted reform proposals and pr ocesses, both in matters of institutional
changes and privilege elimination and de finition transformation and social policy
management. The search for National Identity is clearly projected with the aim of
developing a Country Vision, a shared strategic project.

It should also be admitted that in the framework of the crisis, gestures and attitudes
of the dialogue players were recognized as poor, both in relation to the recognition of
faults and responsibilities and about solidar ity actions Some gestures that materialize
social solidarity in view of emergency we re not enough to contribute to the rebuilding
of confidence in society and in a common fate as a Nation.
Thus the participating Bishops expressly stated at the Dialogue Table: “Crisis is
really serious. Our society is seriously fr agmented. It is a crisis of confidence and
credibility. The population does no t feel represented by their political leaders; and at the
same time sectors mistrust one another and in tend to blame others for what is going on.”
Despite this situation, “there are few offe rs of personal or sectorial resignations.”
Therefore, they claimed “the need for gestures and signs that show a sincere wish for
real and profound changes from the politi cal, financial, syndical, and business
leadership.” The Dialogue Table stated so in the same way: “The country needs:
commitments, public and citizen attitudes that , unfortunately have not yet been stated
clearly in the Argent ine Dialogue Table.
18“We appreciate the effort that the Dialogue
Table is making, but we should remember what we said at the beginning: ‘For Argentine
Dialogue to be effective and al so hold credibility has to inspire the political, financial,
syndical and business l eadership to acknowledge the need for gestures and signs that
show a sincere wish for real and profound changes. ’ ”
4. Actions to deal with the emergenc y and reform the social policy.
In order to restore social peace and reconstruct the social fabric, the Argentine
Dialogue recognized as essential to deal with the social emergency, give answers to the
most serious situations of social exclusion generated by poverty and destitution, which
were worsened by the crisis. Thus, new acti ons were boosted as regards food and health
emergencies and fight against poverty.
But this situation also created the possibili ty of advancing in the structural reforms
of the social policies, designing new mechan isms that incorporate changes from the
common values recognized by society, speciall y transparency and social control that
enable the design and participati ng management of a State policy.

17 Diálogo Argentino, Procesamiento y Análisis de las Entrevistas: Síntesis de las Entrevistas realizadas
en la Fase Preparatoria, March 7, 2002.
18 See Statements of Bishops Jorge Casaretto, Juan Carlos Maccarone y Ramón Staffolani, January 28 and
the Document “ Bases para el Diálogo Argentino
”, January 30, 2002, in Diálogo Argentino, Informative
Bulletin # 1.
19 131ª R eunión de la Comisión Permanente de la Conferencia Episcopal Argentina, Para que renazca el
país , March 21, 2002.


In this plane, the task performed by the
Argentine Dialogue is specially emphasized
to implement the Derecho Familiar de Inclusion Social 20 just as stated by the decree of
the National Executive Power that recognizes it. 21 This right guarantees that every
Argentine home enjoys a monthly inclusion income, and that actions are developed in
parallel to the aim to reintegrate its holders -unemployed Heads of Household- into the
labor market.
The National Government supported passionately this initiative that was
materialized with the recogni tion of the Family Right to Social Inclusion and the
launching of the Heads of Household S ubsidy Program performed by the same
President of the Nation on April 3, 2002. The program was firstly assigned to homes
with children under 18 years old, disabled or pregnant women, and consists of the
allocation of a monthly 150-peso unemployment subsidy, work training and the
integration of beneficiarie s into productive projects.
This program features generate important impacts on several aspects of public
First, to ensure the program financing of such importance –it is estimated that once
implemented completely, it could reach 2 million of direct beneficiaries– the
contribution of different sectors was searched through: retentions to agrarian exports,
elimination of special pensioner regimes (“pr ivilege pensions”), and the application of
income taxes to judges, and savings that will be held from the political reform. In this
way, the aim was the materialization of solidar ity and equity in view of the crisis, as
requiring extra efforts of the economically bene ficial sector or releasing resources by
privilege elimination or expense cuts. The importance of this program, which could
reach 3,600 million pesos yearly, will then generate a ma rked income redistribution that
does not only seek social justice, but also contribute to the reactivation of the ruined
Argentine economy.
But this initiative has not only been innovative by its conception and s
cope, but also
for its implementation through new mechanisms intended to overcome the shortcomings
observed in the social plan execution in the past . In this sense, the constitution of the so-
called National Council of Admini stration, Execution and Control
23 is clearly
emphasized. This National Council, which cel ebrated its preparatory session on April
24 last year, is composed of fifteen member s, only three of them represent the National
Government (Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Social
Development and Ministry of Economy), wh ereas three represent each one of the
following sectors: employees organizations, workers unions, non-governmental
organizations and denominational institutions. The Council is chaired by the head of
Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security and assisted by an Executive
24 .
In that preparatory meeting, the following institutions participated:
Business sector: The Argentine Rural Societ y, the Coordinator of the Food Product
Industries – COPAL/UIA, the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production Chamber
[Cámara de Exploración y Produc ción de Hidrocarburos – CEPH] and the banking
20 Diálogo Argentino, Document, “Derecho Familiar de Inclusión Social ”, March 18, 2002. 21 National Executive Power, Decree # 565/2002 – April 3, 2002. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid., Art. 12. 24 Ibid.


sector (
ABAPRA y ABA ). Syndical Sector: General Confederation of Labor
[ Confederación General del Trabajo – CGT] , Argentine Workers Movement
[ Movimiento de Trabajadores Argentinos – MTS] and Argentine Workers Center –
[ Central de Trabajadores Argentinos – CTA] Non Governmental Organizations:
Argentine Municipal Federation [ Federación Argentina de Municipios] , Social Sector
Forum and Classist and Combative Movement – [Corriente Clasista y Combativa –
CCC] Denominational Institutions: AMIA, Evangelical Council and National Caritas.
CONAEyC has a number of attributions to ad minister, carry out and control the
program through: implementation policies, be neficiary records, the follow-up and the
supervision of resources, the assignati on payment modalities, program follow-up of
professional and promotion training, and cr eation of employment for beneficiaries,
external evaluation, public diffusion and info rmation to the National Presidency about
the implementation, just as making a comp laint when irregularities are detected.
The instrumentation of the Derecho Familiar de Inclusión Social through a
transparent and participat ive institutional mechanism involves a structural
transformation of the public po licies by social control. This statement is clearly ratified
when considering the great powers of th e National Council and its composition –a
minority one for the Government and a major ity one for the Civil Society– maintaining
the important role of the business sectors th at make the main contributions by tax means
in order to finance the program and contri bute to the implementation of the three
syndical centers accounting for workers, a nd of non-governmental organizations with
municipal representation, social and unemployed institutions, and with the participation
of the main religious institutions with na tional assistance and training plans. This
democratization of social policies is suppor ted by the so-called municipal Consultant
Council, made up similarly of local governmental and non-governmental levels.
26 Its
proper implementation will surely contribute to the regeneration of confidence in the
State and civil society institutions.
Finally, it is important to consider that beneficiaries not only receive a subsidy,
but also these resources intended to allevi ate the social emergency are accompanied
with training and insertion actions in produc tive projects of the business sector with the
aim of creating genuine empl oyment. Thus the business sector makes its effort to
improve and integrate unemployed people to the productive circuit. There is no doubt
that this integral dimensi on of the program gives greater legitimacy and acceptance by
the beneficiaries and th e society as a whole.
This action, which has reli ed on a vast society consen sus channeled by Argentine
Dialogue, is a unique experience in the region. It involves a significant State reform in a
crucial area of public policies, with the aim of not only achieving greater effectiveness
and equity in the social program distributi ons, but also obtaining greater transparency,
social control and St ate democratization.

25 Ibid., Art. 13. 26 In case of the Consulting Counsels corresponding to “town halls and neighborhoods” over 25,000
inhabitants, neighboring consulting counsels can be established.” Decree 565/2002, Art. 9.
27 According the results of the survey carried out by the Argentine Dialogue, the population as a whole
supports en masse (9 out of 10 interviewed people ) that the State contributions to the unemployment
solution were channeled through the companies. Argentine Dialogue , Gallup, Mora and Araujo and SEL
Surveys, March 2002.


Promote the Political Reform
The political and State reform arose as one of the main priorities presented by
players during the days of the dialogue. A broad spectrum of institutions and sectors
coincided with the need and urgency of sett ing out a profound political reform, although
there was not always coincidence about the implementation details. However, there was
consensus about the reduction of political costs, the improvement of management
quality and the shortening of distance among political parties and citizenship.
Coincidentally, the support for a profound politi cal reform to end the crisis reached 70%
of the interviewed among the population.

Regarding the State Reform, coinciden ces arose out of effectiveness and
transparency objectives in the public expenditu re and the recovery of the State authority
and control capacity, although there were disagreements about the federal regime
reform, presidential reform, the bicameralism at provincial level and the constitutional
reform procedures.
In the document “ Bases para el Diálogo Argentino,” the contents from the
consensus in the dialogue with players were specified. “ Boost the political reform to
guarantee the representativeness, legitimacy, proximity and austerity principles.” And
the proposal was to adopt measures about financing laws of the political parties and
campaigns, commitment with the provinces to restrict the expenditure of the legislative
and municipal institutions, limit fixing to government employee salaries, free access to
information about public management, author ization of candidates out of political
Other key components of the institutional-pol itical reform related to the elimination
of privileges were the propos als of “abolishing all privilege pensions,” “perform a
beneficiary census of gracious pensions” and the “obligation of personal property and
income payment” to the judges.
In the face of these demands, important a dvances were made about the political
reform, standing out the signing of “the Fe deral Agreement for the Political System
Reform” by the National Government, and the provincial jurisdictions on February 6,
32 This commitment to reduce political costs involves reducing 25% of the
national deputies’ number, as limiting the expenditures of provincial and municipal
legislatures, and the governmental structures of all jurisdictions. Also it sets out the
unification of elective process every four years, for which the corresponding
constitutional reforms are required in pr ovinces, as just for the ones who opt for a
unicameral legislative system.

28 Diálogo Argentino, Procedimiento y Análisis de las Entrevistas: Síntesis de las Entrevistas realizadas
en la Fase Preparatoria March 7, 2002 29 Diálogo Argentino , Gallup, Mora y Araujo and SEL (S ociedad de Estudios Laborales) surveys. 77%
among leaders and 79% among businessmen.
30 Item A.1., Document “ Bases para el Diálogo Argentino ”, January 30, 2002, in the Argentine Dialogue,
Informative Bulletin # 1
31 Ibid., items A.4, A.5 y A.6, respectively. 32 The Agreement was signed by the President of the Nation, 22 Provincial Governors and the Chief of
the City Government of Buenos Aires. The only absence was San Luis governor due to discrepancies
about the elimination of the industrial promotiona l regime that benefit a number of provinces: Catamarca,
La Rioja, San Juan and San Luis.

This agreement was favorably evaluated by Argentine Dialogue Table since it
means the commitment of the top political spheres of the National Government and
Provincial Government with the objectives stat ed by the Dialogue in this crucial area. It
was the first significant governmental act of direct response to the social demands
channeled by the Argentine Dialogue .
Laws for consideration of the National Congr ess should be seen in the same way for
the elimination of special pension regimes “p rivilege pensions,” as tax exemptions for
judges. Both represent majority claims of the population, and although the lapse for
these legislative changes to be carried out usually demand more time than the urgency
claims, a prompt final sanction is exp ected for both legislative initiatives.
From the commitment assumed in the agreement for the political reform, several
legislative initiatives have arisen, such as the finance law of the political parties and the
simultaneous open internal law that is bei ng considered by the National Congress. Other
projects are also being prepared together w ith the active participation of legislators and
representatives of the Executive Power, aime d at modifying the political parties’ law
(candidatures, affiliations, and partisan organizations) and reducing the number of
members of the Deputy Chamber, whose discu ssions are one of the current legislative
priorities. Other instances for the implementa tion of political reform require executive
and legislative actions or c onstitutional reforms at provi ncial level that are being
adopted gradually in diffe rent Argentine provinces.

In the plane of institutional reforms, it coul d be emphasized that a sectorial table of
the Dialogue was not yet made up for the St ate reform that would have allowed to
progress more decisively in the transformati on of the state system. Besides, despite the
required consensus, the terms of implementati on for the political reform, particularly the
lack of conclusive gestures to abolish irri tating privileges show a marked difference
between the urgency of the demands that state the society and the times of the
institutional response to make the assumed pledges true.

6. Consensus for Reforms
The main objective of Argentine Di alogue, according to the repetitive
pronouncements of the President of the Nation and other players, has been to develop
the consensus and find basic agreements amon g the majority of the political, business,
syndical forces and institutions of the Civil Society to boost a profound transformation
of Argentina. This core obj ective of the transition period, which is projected beyond
December 2003, demands short-, middle- and long-term actions.
Argentine Dialogue works from the first mome nt to advance in that crucial task, and
has intensified its actions during April to achieve the support of the political forces
about a number of basic agreements to cons olidate the consensus space over the reforms
needed in the transition period. Those effo rts have been summarized in the document
“Consenso para las Reformas” , in which the main action lines to be taken in order to
reach that aim are summarized. (See Consenso para las Reformas, page 16).

However, up to now it has not been possi ble to guarantee that the main political
forces get committed to a broad agreement about a basic consensus center for the
transition period. Even the proposed fram ework can offer a common operative base
over which the different parties might build different execution options; consensus has

not been reached yet. The dynamic and urgencies of the crisis have turned the
interactions among forces and political sect ors more complex, as the institutional
relations among national author ities –Executive Power – Congress– and these ones with
the provincial authorities. Other agreements have been reached, as the 14 items
subscribed among the National Executive Power and the majority of the Governors last
April 24, but their scope and main objectives seem more limited, when trying to respond
mainly to the most immediate demands of th e economic crisis and the needs imposed by
the negotiation with international financial institutions.

b ) Evaluation of the Episcopal Conference about the Argentine Dialogue

The Permanent Commission of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, in its
special meeting on January 7-8, 2002, “decided to provide the spiritual environment for
the “Argentine Dialogue” and designated thre e bishops to take part in the Dialogue
Table Monsignor Juan Carlos Maccarone , Santiago del Estero Bishop; Monsignor
Jorge Casaretto , San Isidro Bishop and Monsignor Artemio Staffolani , Río Cuarto
Bishop. That term of office lasted until the carrying out of the plenary meeting of the
Argentine Episcopal Conference, developed in San Miguel, Province of Buenos Aires
from last April 22 to 27.

During a week characterized by political and economic instability, in which
significant changes took place in the Nati onal Cabinet, the Episcopal Conference
evaluated the experience of the Argentine Dialogue and its participation in that process.
Concluding their deliberations, the bishops issued the document “Testigos del
Diálogo ”
33 where they recognized that “during the year 2001 and in many occasions,
several social players (gove rnment, political parties, business and workers unions,
NGOs, citizens) asked for a new intervention to initiate a social dialogue that enables
the search for solutions agreed by everybody in view of the crisis that society was
In that document they declared th at the Church played a role of “dialogue
witnesses called by the National Government with the technical support of the United
Nations.” And that ”the Churc h, whose presence was officially asked for, stated that it
would not participate as another member, but provide a meeting space, in which were
vividly and carefully applicable the great own moral values of an authentic dialogue.”
Therefore, they emphasize that “the presence of the Church in the citizen dialogue is
neither an exercise of political power, nor an attempt to take up a place that it does not
belong to it. The presence of the Church seek s the creation of a space for people so as to
meet and not confront.”

After revising synthetically the main landmarks of the Argentine Dialogue
process, the document recognizes that “the first positive verification has been that most
of the citizenship made a clear option for dialogue and not for violence.” But in
recognizing that “we have not found the way ye t,” the bishops identify in a coherent
way with previous pronouncements that “the sectorial and corporative interests are still
powerful.” They are the big barriers that hamper the building of the common good. This
is the great affliction that suffers the Argentine people.”

33 Conferencia Episcopal Argentina , Document “Testigos del Diálogo” , April 27, 2002

Below they emphasize the breach observed among the consensus and the
proposals reached in the Arge ntine Dialogue, and the reform s and realized changes.
“Therefore, the results of the dialogue have not been transfor med up to date in the
action plan of this new moment of our Nation” And therefore “it is time to real reforms
and make great personal a nd sectorial resignations.”

Directly, the bishops claime d again “leaders has to make gestures so that they
are a clear option for the common good,” and they call for a national consensus about
the transition reforms that “the Argentin e Dialogue submitted to the Executive and
Legislative Powers (in) a project of national agreemen t that, being approved and
implemented by means of laws and proper gov ernment measures by political forces and
governors, might turn into the real founda tion of a great change for Argentina.”
Bishops recognized that “the Argentine Dialogue offered a favorable framework
to renew attitudes and habits and that st ructural reform proposals responding to the
initial objective where channeled: restore th e country.” They concluded reasserting the
responsibility of the leadership: Now it is necessary that those who have the power
implement the reforms.”
As far as the bishops’ concern, they re newed their commitment to the dialogue
process: “we state our willingness to continue contributing to the search for ways that
enables us to grow as a Nati on and create a new project of country.” Thus, the bishops
will continue participating in the Argent ine Dialogue, although other prelates would
alternately take part in, al ong with three representatives appointed in January and lay
people who have already taken an activ e part in the support teams at the Dialogue
Table. They will play a more important role , in the light of the development of more
specific follow-up and execution tasks.

Regarding these statements of the Episc opal Conference, it is clear that the
bishops recognize how importa nt the Argentine Dialogue has been, but they also clearly
identify criticism towards the leadership, pa rticularly as regards the distance among
proposals and real achievements. Despite the seriousness of the crisis, or precisely due
to the permanent fragility of the country situation, the bishops decided to commit
institutionally to the dialogue process, as the only valid way to respond to the wishes
and aspirations of all Argentine people that seek a nation whose identity is passion for
the truth and a commitment to the common good.

2.6 Lessons Learnt

1) Dialogue and handling of the political crisis: The greatest accomplishment of
the Argentine Dialogue was to have been effective to reduce political violence in
a scenario where even the possibili ty of a “civil war” was mentioned.

34 Ibid., item 11. 35 Ibid., item 12. 36 Ibid.

2) Dialogue for the formulation of State policies with social consensus: The
Dialogue also helped to establish a space for issues deliberation in the medium
or long term; trying in that way to over come the sectorial and partisan pushing.

3) Dialogue and legitimization: In the first months of 2002, the Argentine
Dialogue provided public institutions with an important backing to its activation,
giving support at a moment in which the traditional political players were
discredited before the public opinion. In this process, both the denominational
organizations –mainly the Catholic Church– and the UNDP were of great
importance because they nourish the Argentine Dialogue through ethical content
rather necessary in crisis periods and provided the needed impartiality.

4) Dialogue and the provision of a diagnosis for action: The Argentine Dialogue
tried to identify the sector ial interests and guarantee proper incentives to reach
consensus. The intention was to channel th e issues into sectorial tables in order
to prevent rather general discussions with no capacity of being translating into
proactive agreements.

5) Demands and expectation expressions: The Argentine Dialogue was an
exercise for the consolidation of the civ il society and its orientated efforts to
widen the participation in search of consensus. This consolidation was reflected
in a continuous process that contributed to the regeneration of public confidence
and reconstruction of the social fabric . Perhaps this was one of the most
important results of an exer cise of this kind, as it aims to the change of the
dominant political culture.

6) Dialogue and method: A dialogue is based on the confidence building among a
number of participants. It involves a vast participat ion, including players with
different representativeness and interest levels. They should deal with complex
issues and try to decompress those positions that lead to immediate
confrontation and threaten to end up in a conflict. The Argentine Dialogue was
an exercise to recover confidence in the social fabric after 2001 crisis. It
allowed, thanks to this, to make consensus orientated to the application of social
policies in order to hold back the cr isis and then create discussions with
medium- and long-term issues to face structural reforms.

2.7 Conclusions

Firstly, it is important to recognize the effort made by the different players in
this process and the institutional and persona l commitment of the representatives of the
National Government, the Argentine Episcopal Conference and the Program of the
United Nations for the Development. Special ly, the specific contributions from each

party should be emphasized: the responsibilities assumed by the National Government
and the leading role of the President of the Nation; the moral guarantee of the Argentine
Church and the professionalism and impartia lity of the UNDP for the Development.
These contributions represent constitutive elements. Without them, this experience
could not have become a reality, not at least with the results achieved.
There should be recognized that th e balance of the Argentine Dialogue seems to
be highly positive when analyzing and ev aluating the consensus and agreements
achieved, particularly before the framew ork of a profound crisis and the lack of
confidence and credibility from citizens in institutions. On the other hand, if you
measure the real results comparing the im portance of the social demands and the
destruction level of the social fabric by the emergency, as the depth of the crisis,
credibility and confidence in leaders and institutions, the achievements do not seem
The Argentine Dialogue offered the institutional space, acted as a catalyst, which
should be accompanied by the leading particip ation and new attitudes and actions by the
players of all areas, as from the number of social and communal institutions. However,
the contributions and innovations that this experience has provided to the transition
process in favor of the Argentine society r econstruction seem to be highly significant.

When it comes to a global evaluation, the Dialogue contributions should not
be forgotten as regards the recovery of national dialogue and the contributions to the
interests of social pacificati on and restoration of essential values for the coexistence and
reconstruction of the co mmon good and the “Public.”
When revising the process developed by the Argentine Dialogue, it may be
recognized that the stages of the exchanges ma de with the players such as deliberations
of sectorial coordination tables have been va luable experiences, learning exercises that
have boosted and validat ed the way for the dialogue as a crucial methodology to solve
conflicts and reach main consensus to deve lop State policies in a democratic society.

This consideration reinforces the c onviction that even though the results
achieved by the Argentine Dialogue up to now are significant, there are still pending
some important tasks and phases to devel op the dialogue among Argentine people, and
it should finally be incorporated effectively to the institutional and social practice of the
democratic process in our country.
Thus, the Argentine Dialogue is a solid base to boost th e efforts even more in
order to widen and consolidate the consensus, to implement the reforms demanded
by society, to advance in the jo int construction of the State policies, to project a country
strategic vision for Argentina.

2.8 Appendix: Document Lists: references:
Documents of the Argentine Dialogue [Diálogo Argentino] Diálogo Argentino, Informative Bulletin #1: • Message of President Eduardo Alberto Duhalde to the Nation from Santa
Catalina de Siena Church, January 14, 2002.
• Message of Monsignor Estanislao Karlic , President of the Argentine Episcopal
Conference from Santa Catalina de Siena Church, January 14, 2002.
• Message of Ambassador Carmelo Angulo Barturen, Representative of the
United Nations in Argentina in Santa Catalina de Siena Church, January 14,
• Spokesman’s Statements of Diálogo Argentino, José Ignacio López subsequent
to the meeting with the Presiden t Eduardo Duhalde, January 18, 2002.
• Bishops’ Statement Jorge Casaretto, Juan Carlos Maccarone and Ramón
Staffolani, January 28, 2002.
• Diálogo Argentino , Bases para el Diálogo Argentino
, January 30, 2002.
Diálogo Argentino, Documento de Virreyes, January 26, 2002.
Press Release of Diálogo Argentino , February 21, 2002.
Diálogo Argentino , Informative Bulletin #2, Construir la Transición , February 2002
Diálogo Argentino – Analysis Team, Procesamiento y Análisis de las Entrevistas
Síntesis de las entrevistas realiz adas durante la Fase Preparatoria
, Final Version,
March 7, 2002
Diálogo Argentino, Memoria y Balance Fases 1 y 2
, Buenos Aires, March 12, 2002
Diálogo Argentino, Próximas Etapas
, March 12, 2002
Síntesis del Estudio sobre el Diál ogo Argentino-Población y Dirigencia
, Gallup
Argentina Survey (Population Study), SEL, Laboral Study Society (Leaders Study), and
Mora y Araujo (Cualitative Study), March 2002
Diálogo Argentino, Plan de Difusión y Diseminación
, March 13, 2002
Diálogo Argentino, Derecho Familiar de Inclusión Social
, March 18, 2002
Diálogo Argentino, Consenso para las Reformas
Document, April 2002
Diálogo Argentino Gerardo Noto Report 2002-2003-2004
Evaluación del Diálogo Argentino , PNUD, 2005

Other documents:
Dialogos Nacionales.Lecciones aprendidas de diversas experi encias de América Latina.
Daniel Zovatto, Marcelo Varela-Erasheva. Santiago,Chile. May, 2002
Comisión Permanente de la Conf erencia Episcopal Argentina, Queremos ser Nación,

August 10, 2001
Comisión Permanente de la Conferencia Episcopal Argentina, El diálogo que la Patria
necesita , December 13, 2001
Comisión Permanente de la Conferencia Episcopal Argentina, Diálogo para reconstruir
la Patria , January 7-8, 2002
Comisión Permanente de la Conferencia Episcopal Argentina, Para que renazca el país
March 21, 2002


Conferencia Episcopal Argentina , Document “Testigos del Diálogo”, April 27, 2002
Speech of Dr. Eduardo Duhalde under the Le gislative Meeting when taking office as
President of the Nation, January 1, 2002
Federal Agreement for the Political System Reform,
February 6, 2002.
Speech of the President of the Nation Dr. Eduardo Duhalde in the Opening of 120º
Ordinary Period f the Honorable Co ngress of the Nation, March 1, 2002
National Executive Power, Decree Number 565/2002 – April 3, 2002

Angela Cristina Calvo

Buenos Aires, 16/01/2008